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Invention Convention

Wk 1: Invention Boggle

Learning Outcomes: 

The learner will brainstorm inventive ways to use common objects to solve a problem or to do work.


Grade 4 Social Studies, Goal 7, Objective 7.03

  • The teacher should informally observe students to see if each student is able to supply at least three “uses” for each object.

Invention Boggle is a lesson designed to introduce students to thinking like inventors and seeing the technological possibilities in common objects around them. Invention Boggle was designed as a way to acclimate students to being inventors and to prepare them to develop their own inventions for “Invention Convention.” “Invention Convention” is an integrated project combining learning from language arts, science, and math curriculums allowing students to apply their understandings of magnets and electricity by designing or improving an existing invention.

Classroom Time Required: 

Each individual lesson requires at least one, twenty-minute session. The lesson can be replicated for several, twenty minute sessions, concurrently or on given days.

Materials Need: 
  • Class sets of common objects, one object placed in a paper bag, at least one bag for each pair of students, all pairs receiving the same object. Common objects could include: paper clips, clothes pins, washers, compasses, scissors, ping pong balls, syringes, tubing, bottle corks, aluminum can tabs, sea shells, etc.

  • (Optional) Sentence strips written for English Language Learners (ELLs,) each reading

    • It could be a ________.
    • It might be a ________.
    • Could it be a ________?
    • a
    • an
    • "Vowel = an / Consonant Chart = a" chart
  • (Optional) Chart Paper
  • Plain or scrap paper and pencil for each pair of students
  • Review sharing materials in pairs
  • Review turn taking for talking and scribing ideas.
  • The teacher will assign pairs and then group students in groups of no more than six students. 
  • The teacher will show students s/he has “Mystery Bags” containing a mystery object.  S/he will remind students not to open the bags until it is time.  Once time is called, each pair will brainstorm as many uses for the mystery object as possible.  Students should record their ideas on paper.  Pairs will have five minutes to brainstorm uses. 

  • The students will work for five minutes. 

  • When time is called, each group will score points.  Like many other popular games like Scattergories or Boggle, a pair will only receive a point if no other pair listed that exact idea or a very similar idea.  Each pair will read their “uses,” and the group will mark off any “uses” that are the same as another pair or are extremely similar.  Small groups should total how many points were received altogether, and the winning group is the one with the most points. 

  • After scoring, the teacher will ask students to draw conclusions about what they learned about inventions.  The teacher will allow students to peer share with a partner seated near them, for one minute.  Following peer sharing, students will share ideas with the class.  Some ideas of conclusions could be:  Inventions can be really simple, you can change an invention slightly and have a different invention, you can combine an invention with something else and get a new invention, etc.  (If using this activity to introduce “Invention Convention” the teacher may want to keep a chart of these conclusions for students to refer back to when recording problems and selecting an invention in future lessons.)

  • For novice English speakers, students should be allowed to act out their “uses” for the common objects. For example, if an ELL wants to share that a bottle cork could be a “landing pad” for a plane, they should be allowed to act out those motions. Novice speakers should be paired with a student content to do the writing.
  • For intermediate English speakers, a teacher or peer teacher should model using the sentence strips for sharing ideas. For example, if the student shares that a paper clip could be a diving board, the teacher will model using a sentence strip and say, “It could be a diving board.” The teacher can decide whether it is appropriate for the ELL to use just one sentence strip or interchange all three.
  • For advanced English speakers, a teacher can use a chart showing that words beginning with vowels correspond with the article “an,” and words beginning with consonants correspond with the article “a.” Students can then use the chart as a resource to use the correct article when brainstorming “uses” for the objects.  
Author's Comments: 
  • When preparing for “Invention Convention” repeating this activity three to four times helps students to think like inventors.  Repeating the process make brainstorming improvable problems much easier. 
  • Once students are proficient at brainstorming uses for the common objects, having a tactile object may not be necessary for all students, although it would still be helpful for ELLs.

  • Once students are proficient at brainstorming uses for common objects, this lesson can be used as a transition activity in shorter periods of time. 

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